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Wednesday, March 07, 20071173291900

The National and Homeland Security Amendment

The class that abolished a parliamentary republic to embrace direct democracy still has that form of government. There's a notable drop in participation, which is typical of classes that undergo such a constitutional shift. Students -- and I think I can generalize this to most human beings -- dislike participation and deliberation, and go out of their way to avoid it.



The Tyranny of the People?



Nonetheless, after my suggestion the now leaderless class agreed to discuss the following potential amendment to the US Constitution:

(i) No person who, through religions doctrine, belief, or sympathy owes loyalty, fealty, or obedience to any foreign state or foreign network or any sort, shall serve as an Officer or Representative of the United States or of any State.

(ii) The Congress of the United States, and the Legislatures of the several States, shall have the power to enforce this law.


By the end of the initial discussion, the class was largely split between people who opposed the amendment outright and others who opposed "loopholes in it" (such as the implied persecution of the Catholic Church).

I then altered the assignment, so that students were told that this amendment was guaranteed to pass, but they had the power to alter it to make it less offensive. While still vocally opposed by a healthy minority, the following revision removed most of the opposition

(i) No person who, through religious doctrine, belief, or sympathy may impede the national or homeland security of the United States shall serve as an Officer of the United States or of any State.

(ii) The Congress of the United States, and the Legislatures of the several States, shall have the power to enforce this law.


What changed? (Additions in italics, subtractions struck-through):

(i) No person who, through religions doctrine, belief, or sympathy owes loyalty, fealty, or obedience to any foreign state or foreign network or any sort, may impede the national or homeland security of the United States shall serve as an Officer or Representative of the United States or of any State.

(ii) The Congress of the United States, and the Legislatures of the several States, shall have the power to enforce this law.


While the changes "narrowed" the amendment by moving away from foreign-control to actualy theats, the alterations "expanded" the amendment by including threats to homeland security, and not just national security. Two religious groups were openly discussed by the class: the Roman Catholic Church and the Ku Klux Klan. The RCC is apparently disestablished by the original amendment, while the Klan is apparently persecuted by the revised one.

Comments

My reading is that since mere belief or inactive sympathy cannot impede national or homeland security (a difference?) in any meaningful way, the revisions to the amendment nullifies it. Simply sympathizing with the Klan or Al-Qaeda doesn't pose a threat.

Posted by: Adam | Wednesday, March 07, 2007

An excellent, original point.

The foil for the amendment is a current case in Nebraska -- an open Klansman is on the highway patrol, and the state's efforts to remove him so far have run into the 1st and 14th amendments. After all, he belongs to an unpopular religious organization.

The revised amendment was intended to prevent this sort of happenstance, as the trooper's doctrines, belief, and sympathies may impede homeland security. It is no longer a question of the trooper belonging to a "suspect class" (that is, a group who it is very hard for the government to discriminate against constitutionally) -- to the trooper now belonging to a "suspect class" (that is, a group of people who cannot Constitutionally be Officers of the United States or of any State).

Obviously though, neither I nor the freshman scholars in the class are constitutional lawyers! :-)

Posted by: Dan tdaxp | Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Funny thing, I remember in my Senior year of high school in Gov't class the teacher took a survey of prefered methods of gov't, and everyone chose direct democracy as well, except me.


"The class that abolished a parliamentary republic to embrace direct democracy still has that form of government. There's a notable drop in participation, which is typical of classes that undergo such a constitutional shift. Students -- and I think I can generalize this to most human beings -- dislike participation and deliberation, and go out of their way to avoid it."

Maybe you should ask your class if anyone saw this coming.

Also, somehow I think you are hinting at Hibbings' book Stealth Democracy.

Posted by: Jeffrey James | Wednesday, March 07, 2007

"The revised amendment was intended to prevent this sort of happenstance, as the trooper's doctrines, belief, and sympathies may impede homeland security."

People need to understand that freedom of speech is freedom of speech, and that any alterations will render something else entirely that will not meet the definition of freedom of speech.

...where is Chomsky when you need him?

Posted by: Jeffrey James | Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Who decides what impedes and doesn't impede?

Posted by: a517dogg | Thursday, March 08, 2007

It sounds tremendously anti-semitic to me as it will be used to single out and persecute Jews for supporting Israel.

Posted by: Jonathan Davidoff | Thursday, March 08, 2007

Only if doing so impedes American national security.

Posted by: a517dogg | Thursday, March 08, 2007

Jeffrey,

I like the idea of asking if the lack of participation was intended -- or even doing surveys before and after the semester asking students about their perceptions.

a517dogg,

An excellent point. It was my intention in proposing the original amendment that Section (i) implies the courts have the power to enforce it, and Section (ii) implies that the Legislature (and therefore the bureaucracy) has the power to enforce the provision.

Jonathan,

Oh man I hope you stay around as a reader for a bit. I juust finished work on part of the project which is an almost perfect companion to what you wrote...

Posted by: Dan tdaxp | Thursday, March 08, 2007

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